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Le Pont de la Tour Review

Casey Gillespie wants a romantic dinner on the Thames and she gets it

Written by . Published on October 25th 2011.


Le Pont de la Tour Review

I’VE been sitting here staring at the computer screen for the last fifteen minutes contemplating how to wax philosophical about life, the iChing, feng shui and how living close to a body of water allows chi to flow more smoothly, thereby making you happier and your life more prosperous. And then I thought, it’s Tuesday and I have a nasty chest cold – sod it, who cares?

There is actually a point to made about water though – the Thames in particular – and that is on a Saturday night, when the rest of London is out getting fall down drunk, there is a refuge in the city where people who want to have a quiet – dare I say romantic – dinner can go. Butler’s Wharf is located just off London Bridge tube stop and offers gorgeous views of the river and the iconic Tower Bridge. I have walked past Le Pont de la Tour a couple of times and I am always drawn in by the subtle nautical feel of the restaurant – that and I am a bit of sucker for anywhere that offers blankets to guests who want to dine on the terrace.

When my date asked for a new steak knife as his was a little dull and he found himself sawing through his piece of meat, our waiter looked personally offended by the knife and came back in three seconds flat with a knife so sharp a surgeon would have found it suitable.

Img_1467 

This past Saturday night was the perfect opportunity to see if the food and the atmosphere at Le Pont de la Tour measured up to the idealistic experience I had been building up in my head. It’s terrible, I know, to go into a restaurant – that no one has ever said anything to me about ­– expecting it to be amazing based solely on the fact that I like the colour of the floor boards and the waiters are attractive. Oh well, I was on a mission and my date was game – the usual recipe for an interesting Saturday night.

Upon entering the restaurant, without a reservation mind you, the two hostesses bombarded us with a bevy of information about the menus and how they are different at the bar and grill than they are in the more formal dining room upstairs. Luckily, they offered the a la carte menu outside on the terrace because that’s where I wanted to sit – rain, snow, sleet or hail. We were given a table with a perfect view of the foot traffic and Tower Bridge in the background.

Img_1478Perfection on a plate

We both ordered a glass of prosecco to sip on while we carefully perused the menu. After noticing that everyone around us had a little plate of nibblies we asked for one as well and we were brought a selection on fried plantains and beetroot chips, peanuts that tasted of curry and a bowl of olives. All tasty, but nothing to write home about. We decided to share three starters as I had forgotten to eat lunch and was considering gnawing on my date’s arm. Six Mersea rock oysters (£11.50), king prawns, avocado and chilli, tomato dressing on toasted brioche (£9.50) and salt and pepper squid with a citrus aioli (£8.50) would suffice nicely.

Img_1483Looks better than it tasted, or does it?

The oysters were absolute perfection while the prawns on brioche were a little bland and the thick slice of bread seemed to take away from the delicate flavours on top. My date loved it though and before I was able to go in for a second nibble the whole thing disappeared. No matter, I was really enjoying the squid. It was meaty, with just the right amount of batter. We were perplexed at the aioli as it actually tasted of nothing, however, when combined with the squid it was a nice combination of textures. Still, I think another dipping sauce might have complemented the squid a bit better, but no real complaints – I know how the French like their ailois.

Img_1479Hungry yet?

Wine was the next to-do as miraculously our champagne glasses had emptied themselves. We wanted white, but I was struggling because there were only house names on the wine list and most sans important words like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot blanc, etc. Our waiter, sensing that I was thirsty, hastily made his way back to the table and offered his assistance. We went with his third recommendation, a 2010 Réserve de Gassac (£26), a delicious combination of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes. A lovely choice.

It is here that I should mention that the service was superb. Our waiter, who was from Marseilles, was incredibly knowledgeable about the wines as well as every last item on the menu. He never wrote anything down and while I tend to think tsk, tsk when someone does that, everything was flawless.

Img_1489Basic, but done oh so well

For our mains we decided to go surf and turf with my date ordering the aged Scotch rump steak with a peppercorn sauce (£16.50) while I opted for the half lobster with garlic butter and horseradish (£19.50). Both were served with what tasted like quadrouplely cooked chips. They were supremely crisp and fatty like only the French can do. When my date asked for a new steak knife as his was a little dull and he found himself sawing through his piece of meat, our waiter looked personally offended by the knife and came back in three seconds flat with a knife so sharp a surgeon would have found it suitable. There was nothing particularly special about the steak or lobster, but both were of the highest quality and cooked exactly right. What more can you ask for really?

Img_1492This is all that was left of the poor lobster

At this point, we were stuffed to the gills and feeling very pleased with all of choices. Having dessert was not even a question – until our waiter came over and explained that it is the restaurant’s twentieth anniversary and to celebrate they are reviving a few of their recipes that were served when they opened. Oh go on then. We chose the Opera, which was a stack of Valrhona chocolate, hazelnut praline, ganache with gold leaf and café crème anglaise (£6.50). It was delicious – not too sweet and served with only about a teaspoon of ice cream. The presentation was also gorgeous, as any good dessert should be.

Img_1499Aged well for being 20, no?

Save for the one prawn appetizer, the food surpassed my expectations – as did the service. Once the sun went down we were the only ones on the terrace, but inside the restaurant was lively with what appeared to be locals (another plus!). We tried to pop into the restaurant’s market after we were finished, but it was long closed, which was a disappointment as I could have probably spent a fair amount of time and money in there. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back – like I needed one.

 

Le Pont de la Tour

Rating:         17/20

Breakdown: 9/10 food
                    5/5 service
                    3/5 atmosphere

 

Follow @caseygillespie on Twitter!

 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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